One of the books I’m currently reading is Michael E. Gerber’s “The E-Myth.”
The Importance of Systems
To me, the basic thesis of the book is the importance of systems. In a successful business, there should be an innovative and steady system in place for almost any activity that is regularly conducted by the business. Gerber describes how McDonald’s became the largest restaurant in the world: it’s because they had systems in place—-that’s why you can go anywhere in America and buy a burger from McDonalds, and it will taste the same. (Although, McDonald’s burgers definitely taste different in Europe).
Some of the benefits of having systems are:
1) It makes it easier to train employees;
2) It makes it easier to meet client expectations;
3) Systems save time and money because they are more efficient; and
4) Systems allow for innovation.
I have to admit, I’m not much of a systems person. I’ve always been more of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of guy. The closest thing I have to a system is a list of “things to do.” When I read David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done,” it terrified me. Truly. But now that my business is (ever so slowly) expanding, I see the importance of having a more systematized office. “Winging it” may work in college, but in the real world systems become all the more important.
This weekend my Wife is going to visit some college friends. Accordingly, I’ve decided to take a “company retreat” to explore how to implement systems into my business. The joke, of course, is that I am the sole employee of my business. So the retreat will just be me and my thoughts. I’ve already made some cursory decisions heading into the “retreat.”
1) I will create written instructions for all of the basic functions of my office: everything from how to answer the telephone to accounting.
2) I will create a packet for new clients explaining each step of the process. I will give them an extra copy of this packet and have my company’s name and contact information therein. I will encourage them to give the extra packet to any friends who might find the information useful. I will also spin the information contained in the packet into blog posts, perhaps an article for a magazine or newspaper, etc. I will also create an e-book from the information and put that on my company’s website. My hope is that this will be a marketing device, an informational product that will help clients, and a way to produce clients who better understand my process. It may also save them money by cutting down on telephone calls. Part of my job is to educate my clients. This packet will help create a uniform system and ensure that each client has the knowledge needed to make decisions.
3) I will work on my current accounting/banking systems.
4) I will work out a real business plan, brainstorm innovations for practice and billing, and think about company technology.
5) I will create a true marketing plan and think about how much growth I am hoping for in my business.
6) I will spend some time just brainstorming in general.
My hope is that I will leave this weekend with a more systematized methodology for my business. I want my company to be state of the art and for my clients to have a great experience. I think this weekend retreat will help with that.
Another important concept in Gerber’s book is the idea of “working on” rather than “in” your business. He says that most professionals who start businesses are not entrepreneurs but rather “technicians suffering from an entrepreneurship seizure” When you’re working “in” the business, you’re a technician or an employee. But to expand your practice, you need to also work “on” the business and be the CEO. I think that makes a lot of sense, and Gerber’s definitely correct that most professional education programs do not teach its students much about how to run a business.
I’ll let you know how my efforts at systematizing my practice go following my weekend “retreat.” I would also love to hear any ideas you have on systems or the importance of systems.